Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh,
Alhamdulillah, by the grace of Allah, Cal Poly Pomona’s Muslim Student Association has had the honor of having Shaykh Ahmad AlKurdy as our Chaplain for the academic school year. Having Shaykh Ahmad as our chaplain has been a very pleasant experience and it has been a pleasure working alongside him. May Allah bless Shaykh Ahmad and the Institute Of Knowledge for supplying the students of CPP with such a great and much needed resource.
Despite the isolated learning environment due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, our study circles have been a great way for members of the MSA of Cal Poly Pomona to connect with each other and with Shaykh Ahmad in fruitful conversations about Islamic topics. Throughout the year, we developed an anonymous questionnaire form specifically where students were able to ask questions as topics of discussion in the study circles. This was beneficial because if a student did not feel comfortable asking in front of everyone, they could still have the topics and questions they were interested in answered. This was a great resource and a practice I would recommend to others as we had lots of questions inputted that would often lead to great discussions. Many of our study circles started with each student “checking in”, or giving an update on things going on in their lives which allowed for greater connections to be created with each other and opened the floor for great conversations.
The topics of our discussions were always relevant to current events, Islamic holidays, and other occurrences that were of significance which allowed the group to remain knowledgeable about things going on outside of academics and gave us a safe space to discuss our thoughts. The semester started off to a good start as the holy Ashura was to take place around the same time. In this session we had discussed why Ahsura was significant, historical information revolving around Ashura, and great practices to take part in. We utilized a graphic that was provided by New Muslim Academy to guide our discussion which proved to be a great source of discussion.
In the month of September with the election coming up, we decided to talk about voting in our study circles. Shaykh Ahmad had supplied us with resources that ranged from articles on “American Muslim Progressivism”, videos of interviews of Malcolm X and his thoughts regarding the two-party system that American democracy contains, and articles that convey the stance of politics other religious groups have. These resources broadened our perspectives on voting and politics from not only an Islamic stance, but an academic one as well.
One of our major events regarding pornographic content and how it affects the mind of those who consume it directly or indirectly. After the event took place, our study circle would continue on the conversation and go over questions that were submitted during the event with Shaykh Ahmad. We discussed not only the harmful effects of pornography but social media as well as many of us do not realize how social media can negatively impact our mental, physical, and spiritual health. Shaykh Ahmad also provided a list of resources we could read on our own after the study circle had ended. As we got closer to the end of October, Shaykh Ahmad also provided us with videos regarding Halloween and its origins.
We requested to continue our study circle gatherings throughout winter break and were granted the option to do so. During winter break our discussions consisted of a wide variety of topics from addressing personal questions asked in our questionnaire to discussing the lives of the prophets. Two or three of our sessions revolved around the prophet Jesus and his life as a messenger of Allah (SWT). We had discussions about his life as a messenger, the trials and tribulations he faced, the significance of his mother Mary, and how other religions such as Christianity see Jesus and how he is portrayed in the Bible. We touched upon the five most important prophets and why their lives were significant in particular. Similarly, we also spoke about the four perfect women in Islam.
Upon returning to school for our spring semester close to the end of January, Shaykh Ahmad took a step back from chaplaincy due to health reasons. We had a break from study circles at Cal Poly however UCI MSU had kindly invited us to join them for halaqas with Shaykh Farhan Zubairi in the meantime. Shaykh Ahmad returned to regular chaplaincy services after a two-week break period.
Another topic we touched upon was the topic of masculinity and masculinity’s place in Islam, Shaykh Ahmad also provided resources once the discussion session had ended.
Our focus then shifted to Ramadan and how to properly prepare for the holy month. We talked about why we fast, what fasting does to us mentally, physically, and spiritually, and how this year’s Ramadan is different from previous years due to mosques previously being closed because of Covid. A common theme that was shared throughout the study circle participants was the struggle of handling the ongoing semester while trying to also focus on Ramadan and making the most of the holy month. We talked about ways to take advantage of the month and ensuring we do the best we can in the areas that we are capable of doing while also being able to focus on our academics. We also dedicated a study circle session to discussing Laylat Al Qadr and its significance. This was extremely helpful as we were able to discuss how important this night is and it was very relevant as well.
We have requested that our study circle sessions continue during the summer break and are currently awaiting confirmation inshallah. As the semester ended, one of the last halaqa sessions we had was more of a listening and learning than a discussion as we listened to Shaykh Ahmad recite Quranic verses as we followed along. After every chapter we finished, there was a short pause for any comments or questions people had. This was something that was very helpful as many of us were stressed with finals coming up and enjoyed listening.
We would like to greatly thank Shaykh Ahmad and the Institute of Knowledge again for the amazing resource that Chaplaincy is. May Allah (SWT) reward the work that is being put in and being provided to Muslim youth in the universities. Chaplaincy is a great resource that we are blessed to have and are greatly appreciative of all the time, effort, and passion that is put in! Jazakallhum Khairon.